Deadly Desire
Page 6

 Keri Arthur

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He snorted softly. "You're such a bitch."
"And you should be helping your mares out. It takes two to create babies, and two to look after them."
"The whole point of having a large herd," he said, voice holding a hint of irritation, but the gleam in his warm chocolate eyes countering it, "is the fact that there are plenty of mares to share night duty. The breadwinner has no need to get involved."
I snorted derisively. "Sable makes more money in a week than you do in a year."
"That is beside the point." He took a sip of coffee and sighed in pleasure. "Damn, this is good."
"The Directorate's probably saved a fortune since the shop upstairs opened." Certainly we hadn't used the coffee machine much since they had. I took a sip myself, then added, "What's happening?"
"Cole's sent a prelim report in for the zombie killing last night. General impressions and identifications, nothing more."
It was surprising he'd managed to get that far. Between riding to my rescue and then being called over to Armel's, he'd been kept pretty damn busy.
"Any initial similarities to the first murder?"
"Other than the fact they're teenage girls who had their throats slashed and blood drained, no." He reached forward and turned the monitor around enough for me to see. A pretty young blonde dominated the screen. I quickly scanned the report underneath as he added, "Last night's victim was a street kid with convictions for theft and drugs."
The first murder had been Amy Prince, a seventeen-year-old kid who'd recently left high school. There'd been nothing criminal about her. "There's no apparent connection between the two sets of murders?"
"Nothing obvious that we can see. They don't even look alike. The victims appear to be selected randomly."
"But random just doesn't feel right."
Kade raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Because these murders are being committed by zombies, and zombies do not rise on their own," Iktar said. "Nor do they practice revenge. Only the living do so."
I looked at him. He was still reading, looking engrossed, but obviously not. "What makes you think these are revenge killings?"
He met my gaze, his all-blue eyes striking against the darkness of his featureless face. "Zombies have no thoughts or feeling of their own. They are mere receptacles for the desires and hatreds of others."
"So?" Kade said.
"So, if mere murder were the motive behind these killings, then why raise the dead? There are a thousand different ways a person with the sort of power needed to raise the dead could cause death, but she chooses decaying flesh to be her instrument. To me, this suggests not only that she wants our attention, but that she has a powerful motivation. Revenge is one such emotion."
"So is hatred, or bloodlust," I murmured, and yet I couldn't disagree with him. These killings were linked somehow, I could feel it, and revenge was certainly one possible connection. Revenge for what was the question. "Why would anyone actually want to attract our attention? That's just suicidal."
Iktar shrugged. "We won't know that until we find the person controlling the zombies."
I glanced at Kade. "Maybe we're tackling this from the wrong angle. Maybe we need to discover if there's any connection between the zombie and the dead people."
"It's still hard to imagine a connection between a street kid in Fitzroy and a former Broady high school student."
"Street kids weren't born that way. Maybe they all went to the same school or something." And it wouldn't be the first time we'd dealt with the bloody need to avenge injustices done at school. Hell, Liander-the love of my brother's life-still bore the scars after one such episode.
"Has anyone talked to the kids who shared the squat with last night's victim?"
Kade shook his head. "They scattered when I tried earlier this morning. I think I looked too much like a cop for their liking."
He looked about as much like a cop as I did. It was probably more the fact that he was a big, imposing male who looked ready to handle any sort of trouble that had them running.
"Then maybe that's what I need to do next." Jack might have told me to write up a report, but solving this case was infinitely more important. Besides, talking to the street kids got me out of the office and away from Kade's delicious aroma. I might be strong willed, but I wasn't a fool. Even the saintliest werewolf could succumb to temptation during the moon heat, and I certainly had never been a saint. "Could you do me a favor?"
"Look out, Kade. We're about to be asked to do something she was asked to do."
I glanced across to Iktar. "Hey, I bought you coffee. Be nice."
White teeth flashed-an odd sight in his all-black face. "I was. I didn't tell him to say no, although that is what he should do."
"Why don't you just go back to your reading?"
He chortled softly. "If Kade didn't want to get back into your bed, he would say no."
"Kade knows there's no chance of that."
He met my glance with a raised cup. "Doesn't stop me from hoping otherwise, of course. What's the favor?"
"Could you run a check for break-ins in the Toorak area? One of Jack's friends was murdered this morning during a robbery, and he wants to see if there have been any similar occurrences."
"That explains the explosion of anger I felt just before he stormed out of the squad room."
Kade, like Quinn, was an empath, but he was also kinetic, which had definitely come in handy when fighting many a bad guy.
"And it means he'll be in a foul mood for days to come." I hesitated, then grinned. "Another reason for me to be in the office as little as possible. You know how easily I can annoy him."
He snorted softly. "Go. I'm stuck here anyway. The lizard and I have to cross-check the details of everyone in that emo nest you found to make sure there's no illegals or underage turnings."
The emos were a large group of vampires I'd discovered while investigating a previous case. Rather than living on blood, emos fed off emotion. Which, according to Jack, made them even more dangerous than blood suckers, simply because they could amplify emotions like hate and rage, and feed off the resulting chaos.
Not that this nest of emos had done anything like that as yet, but it paid to be cautious. Especially when we hadn't even known they'd existed until I'd stumbled upon them.
"The lizard has a name," Iktar said mildly. "Kindly use it."
Kade grinned. He loved teasing Iktar, and I had a fair idea Iktar enjoyed prodding back-although it was hard to tell because very little expression showed on his face. "I'll stop calling you lizard when you stop calling when me horse boy."
"Can it for five minutes, will you?" I shook my head and took another sip of coffee. "What happens if you find illegals or underage emos?"
"From what Jack said, the vamp responsible will be given a warning and fined, and then the vampire council will get called in to keep an eye on her."
I raised my eyebrows. "I thought the vampire council preferred the Directorate to deal with such matters." Hell, we cleaned up the rogues, and that had once been the council's job.
Although if Quinn was to be believed, the council was still very much involved in such duties, only its cleanups involved vampires far worse than anything we ever saw. Which was a scary thought considering some of the psychos we dealt with on a regular basis.
"We don't police the vamp community, remember," Kade said. "We just hunt the ones who kill humans."
"And nonhumans."
He nodded. "But from what I've seen, it's rare for us to go after vamps who kill vamps."
I frowned. "I'm sure we have." And yet, I couldn't remember a clear example, and wondered if this was because such cases were automatically shunted to the council.
I took another sip of coffee, then added, "Anyway, I'm glad it's you doing the paperwork, and not me." Being stuck in a small room with the luscious smelling Kade during the moon heat was always a test for my resolve, but after my close call with Kye, I just didn't want to push it. Feeding some hungers just made them grow. I slid off the desk. "Let me know when Cole's full report comes in."
"Will do."
I headed out. According to the report, last night's victim had been sharing a squat in an old section of Fitzroy. The building had once been an old machine shop and, like the other factories around it, had been bought out in preparation for a new housing development. But the plans had been caught up in red tape, and the buildings had lain empty for years. Street folk were never shy about claiming such buildings as their own, though, and it wasn't unusual for a whole mini-city to be surviving within the grimy, run-down shells.
I locked the car and studied the building, analyzing the scents that surrounded the place and letting them run across my senses. More than one unwashed body lived in this building, and there was also more than one nonhuman. It was an odd fact that while a lot of humanity still seemed to have problems coping with the vampires living in their midst, streets kids and the homeless all seemed to live side by side with vampires without problems. I guess it helped that most vamps didn't eat at home, and did more than their fair share when it came to protecting the squat and the people who lived with them. The kids and tramps returned the favor, looking after the vamps during their daylight sleeping hours.
I pocketed my keys and headed in. The strongest scent of unwashed humanity came from a corner on the upper floor, though there were one or two overly strong aromas coming from different sections of the ground floor. Both suggested wino, and given they weren't my targets, I kept walking.
The metal stairs creaked as I climbed, giving ample warning of my arrival to anyone who was paying enough attention. And they were. Footsteps scattered, boxes scraped across the floor, and doors slammed. I couldn't help smiling. Even regular human cops couldn't have missed those noises, and it suggested the street folk on this level were very young indeed. Those who'd been on the streets for a while tended to meet their fate with a resigned acceptance and smart mouth.
Sunlight streamed in through the grimy windows on the upper floor, highlighting the motes of dust dancing on the air. This section of the building had obviously once been offices, but most of those were little more than broken shells, leaving a wasteland of debris and half-walls. My quarry waited in a far corner, in an office that had two whole walls and two half-walls. With all the smashed windows, it was probably the only part of this floor that provided any real protection from the chill of the wind.
Three boys were waiting for me, though I guess it wasn't fair to call them boys. They might have only looked fifteen or sixteen, but one look into their eyes suggested a life that had been harsher than most.
One boy-a gangly, pockmarked kid with matted brown hair and the most startling blue eyes-took several steps forward and said belligerently, "What do you want? This is our place, and we don't like strangers here."
I stopped and grabbed my ID from my pocket. "Riley Jenson, from the Directorate," I said. "We're investigating the death of Kaz Michaels, and I just need to ask you some questions."
He looked at the ID, then at me. "You're a guardian?"
"But you ain't no vampire."
I raised my eyebrow. "What makes you so sure?"
"You don't smell like no vampire."
I had to grin at that. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only one in the world who thought most vampires stank. "And you don't smell like a regular street kid."
"The water is still connected to this dump, so there's no reason not to use it." He looked me up and down, then said, "What are you, then?"
"Werewolf. You the boss here?"
He shrugged. "Depends on what you want."
"I need to know everything possible about Kaz."
"Because the person who murdered her has already murdered someone else, and I need to stop him before he does it again."
"By stop him, you mean kill him." It was a statement, not a question.
I nodded. "That's what we guardians do, I'm afraid."
He cocked his head a little on the side, then said, "You don't look that dangerous."
I grinned again, liking the kid's attitude. "You should see me if I don't get coffee every hour, on the hour."
He snorted softly, and amusement danced in his bright eyes. I had a feeling that despite his young years and somewhat puny looks, he was a force to be reckoned with. At least when it came to protecting "his" kids.
And I was betting now that the ones who were hidden hadn't so much run for protection, but were instead a surprise force ready to attack if and when it was needed.
"Can you help me?"
He shrugged. "I don't know a lot. Kaz kept pretty much to herself. She only came here for protection at night, like."
"So she had no real friends?"
"No." He hesitated. "Joe might know more. He hung around with Kaz a bit."
"Then where can I find Joe?"
"Around. He works the streets during the day. Safer than at night, even if it doesn't pay as well."
I wasn't sure whether he meant working in the prostitution or stealing sense, and wasn't about to ask. "You think you can get him to talk to me?"
"That depends."
I didn't ask on what. We both knew what he wanted out of the deal. "There's two hundred in it," I said. "That's twenty bucks cash for everyone here." And enough money to buy meals for the next couple of days if they were canny.